That was the river. This is the sea!
While my abiding memories of a life growing up in Howth are of cold, bleak days and colder, wetter nights, it cannot be denied that when the clouds part and the clear blue of the heavens above is allowed to blanket the hill, on the whole it does look rather nice.
The amazing Danseizure seizing the day at the Christmas swim at the Forty Foot, Howth in the background.
The Forty-Foot, Sandycove, 25th December, 2012
It would appear, judging by the number of photos I have, that such days of azure-cyan goodness are a fair bit more common than my gloom-mongering memory would lead me to believe, but a simpler explanation is that these days are such a rarity that when the happen I grab my camera to record the transient moment of glorious joy for posterity, and couldn't be bothered to catalogue all the endless days of concrete-ceilinged drabness in-between.
My glass-half-smashed-upon-the-ground viewpoint is probably why folks never seem to find my Tripadvisor reviews that useful.
Most childhood memories of home are wrapped up with the sense of being within, of standing enclosed by the walls around you and seeing the world outside from your window. You have a sense of the world as being birthed from your house, that your home is at the centre of your geoscentric universe, that everything beyond revolves around your domestic Sitz im Leben.
Sailing in on the ferry from Hollyhead, a view of Howth almost impossible otherwise. The Baily Lighthouse is on the right.
Dublin Bay, 6th August, 2012
More than the view beyond my childhood walls, for me there is a spatial awareness of where Howth is at all times when in Dublin. For those of you unfamiliar with the city's topography, picture Dublin as the letter C, split in half by the river Liffey. Howth lies at the very tip of the upper curl, the city's Alpha (though the good burghers of Portmarnock, Malahide or Swords might beg to differ. They would be wrong), and a point visible from almost everywhere else on the city's coastline.
It is my magnetic north, the tall lime-washed white walls of the Baily Lighthouse immediately recognisable against a green-brown background of gorse and bracken, the spot by which I orientate myself from any place on the south Dublin coast. And in the instant that it hits my eyes, I am split in two and bilocated, there is the me standing on the south shore gazing across the bay at the familiar saddle-backed line that pushes up to defy the horizon, and there is the eleven-year old me, standing at the white-painted wooden-framed window staring down the fields, over the cliff and out across the bay at Dalkey Island, Dun Laoghaire, Bray and on down to Greystones, wondering if anyone there was staring back at me.
Jameson's Pool, originally the private beach of the Whiskey-making family. The Baily Lighthouse is visible in the background.
Jameson's Pool, Howth, 27th December, 2012
Thirty years in time and ten kilometres of peaks and troughs of choppy blue are folded over upon each other in an instant, transposed to occupy the same point, somewhere deep inside my head.
I think that finding myself on my 41st birthday miles away from all the geographies that I find or have found familiar is responsible for this current bout of contemplative nostalgia. I have no deep desire to throw myself back in to the places of my youth, but I think its fair to say that I am coming to understand more what a key role they played in developing my sense of self.
You cannot comprehend how cold this water was as a child, even in the middle of what laughingly passed for summer.
Jameson's Pool, Howth, 27th December, 2012
Like the comet-chasing Rosetta waking up from a three year slumber in the void, the memories of trees and water brought forth this last week in quieter moments of contemplation are the long-ignored and overlooked parts of my historical self, yawning, stretching and calling out to the me-of-the-now with a simple message of "Hello world". Don't forget where you've come from, it says, remembering and accepting your past does not mean being held hostage to it.
"All very well", says I, but if this navel-gazing is the start of a mid-life crisis can we just cut to the bit where I buy an unfeasible impractical but terrifyingly fast car? Please?
A cloud-topped Howth as seen from Dun Laoghaire. The quote is from Joyce's A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
Dun Laoghaire Baths, Dun Laoghaire, 4th July, 2012